‘She Loves Me,’ ‘Celtic Holiday’ at Anaheim’s Chance Theater

Variations on a theme can be great fun. “She Loves Me,” the Tony Award-winning musical based on a play (Miklos Laszlo’s “Parfumerie”) filmed three times, most famously as “The Shop Around the Corner,” is a delightful confection on its own merit. It nicely fills the bill if you want to give yourself or others the gift of entertainment this season, running at the Chance Theater in Anaheim through Dec. 28.

This romantic comedy about Georg and Amalia, a pair of anonymous pen pals who work in the same shop unbeknownst to each other, has a “good old days” charm that sharply reminds us what we’ve lost in this age of Internet dating. Lest you think you’ve seen it all on film, this production has a wildly entertaining café scene that borders on something out of a Marx Brothers movie and is worth the price of admission by itself.

The Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick score that enhances Joe Masteroff’s book is chock-full of terrific songs, though at times it’s like an overstuffed bon bon. There are far too many numbers and several are mediocre; they didn’t know when to quit. Sara Figoten Wilson’s direction is superb, but the choice to do the show without accents (except for one minor character) largely erases the sense of place; despite Bruce Goodrich’s splendid scenic design, there’s little feel of 1930s Hungary.

Standouts in the first-rate cast include Erika C. Miller as the lovelorn Amalia; Beach Vickers as Maraczek, in whose shop the show largely takes place; Camryn Zelinger as Ilona, a shopgirl; and Matt Takahashi, as a waiter who’d be right at home in a ‘30s Hollywood farce. Call 714-777-3033 or visit www.ChanceTheater.com.

The Chance also has a world premiere on tap, so to speak, in “A Celtic Holiday with Craic in the Stone.” The show, written by Jocelyn A. Brown, Karen O’Hanlon and Jennifer Ruckman, directed by O’Hanlon, opens tonight for eight performances, running through Dec. 23. As one who can’t get enough of Ireland (seven visits to date), I’m looking forward to it.

“So much of traditional Celtic music is sharing a love of music and community,” said Brown, who plays the lead role and serves as musical director. Like me, she’s been struck by “how common it was throughout Ireland to find the locals breaking out an instrument or two, playing a few lively tunes or heart wrenching ballads while drinking a pint before heading home.  There was a wonderful sense of community and a desire for everyone to take part in the music, no matter how small.”